But wait. This is where Peter Weber’s season departs from the routine. One of them, he never makes it past the front door of her family’s home. And he yet still keeps her around.
First up is Hannah Ann, 23, a model from Knoxville, Tenn.
There’s a particularly ugly convention in romantic comedies that finds the male protagonist fighting for a woman’s affection by listing all the things he loves about her. Inevitably, as words spill out of his mouth, he starts enumerating behaviors that clearly irritate him, activities that are usually gendered in one way or another: He “loves” that she always takes exactly 53 minutes to pick out her entree, no matter how many times she’s been to the restaurant. He “loves” that she always wears three sweaters to the office, even though her male colleagues seem just fine with the temperature. He “loves” that they’re always late to meet his friends because she takes so long to get ready.
Near the start of this episode, Peter does just that for Hannah Ann, though he organizes his thoughts on paper, an entreaty of affection on what appears to be a lined yellow legal pad, which is, as everyone knows, the most romantic kind of stationery. High on the list: He “loves” that she “has a name for every dress [she’s] ever worn.” Does he, though?
Hannah Ann, to her credit, doesn’t share our skepticism with the gesture. To the contrary, she so admires the trope that she had composed a similar document for him in an earlier episode. As she tells her sister, “When he gave it to me I was like —.” Here, her mouth hangs open. As the literary theorist Roland Barthes might put it, the pleasure of the text is clearest when it falls silent. Or when we do. Or something.
Her father, meanwhile, is concerned with a different list — the many other women still in the running. “There is other young ladies involved,” he tells Peter, skepticism apparently overwhelming his capacity for ordinary grammatical speech. Attempting to reassure this nonplussed patriarch, Peter suggests that he plans to tell Hannah Ann this very night that he is falling in love with her. “I wasn’t expecting that,” the concerned parent replies. “I’d rather you not say that to her unless you mean it.”
“I hear your concerns and I’ll take those to heart,” our protagonist responds. Soon after, he proves that he has done just that by telling Hannah Ann that he is falling for her. And she, with composure that would surely please her father, tells him in kind, “And I’m in love with you.”
“It’s all I wanted, is that validation,” Peter says to the camera. In this regard, too, he is exactly like the hero of a romantic comedy.
Kelsey, 28, a professional clothier from Des Moines
Viewer, those are not wine grapes. Those are table grapes being stomped, crushed and danced on beneath Kelsey and Peter’s feet. Iowa is not exactly known for its viticulture — and yet Kelsey takes Peter to a winery for their hometown date. Perhaps this is a chance for Kelsey to make up for her “champagne crisis” earlier this season, and there are moments of class. Their toes in a tub of grapes, Peter dips Kelsey as if they’re gliding on a dance floor, not ankle-deep in fruit. Later, they create their own bottle of wine, which we hope is drawn from grapes untouched by toenail fungus.
Your recappers checked in with some Des Moines residents, who confirm that many establishments in the Hawkeye state only serve Iowa wine, “and it’s brutal.” Viewers on Twitter also were unconvinced.
Peter runs with the wine analogies, describing his relationship with Kelsey as “very bold” with a “hint of spice.” “It’s that perfect blend that keeps you wanting to come back,” he tells the camera. Which might be believable if they were in California, Oregon, even Virginia. But in Iowa, the analogies are the ultimate tell: Peter won’t be subscribing to this wine club.
Peter meets Kelsey’s mother, stepdad and two sisters. He doesn’t ask for Kelsey’s hand in marriage. Her mother can tell Peter is “at ease” around Kelsey, but she’s concerned, telling Peter: “Don’t break my girl’s heart, do you understand?”
Alas, by the end of the episode that’s what happens. Back in an airplane hangar in Los Angeles, Peter tells Kelsey he couldn’t get to the “I love you” stage. She goes home.
Madison, 23, a foster parent recruiter in Auburn, Ala.
When we first met Madison back in the first episode, her father played almost as large a role in her intro video as she did. It should be no surprise that he casts an equally large shadow over her hometown visit.
Before he arrives, things go well: Madison takes her gentleman caller to an Auburn college basketball court where they are greeted by a prerecorded clip from alumnus Charles Barkley. The school’s coach then leads them in drills where Peter struggles to dribble two balls simultaneously. And though Peter is terrible at this task, that shouldn’t surprise us: He was just as bad at axe-throwing earlier in the episode. After the coach leaves, the couple makes out on the floor of the abandoned court like the last lovers after the rapture.
But the rapture will not come for them yet. No, first Peter must be judged, and judged he will be by her father, an elfin-featured man named Chad who kicks off Peter’s visit by leading the whole family in a prayer. Madison, as her mother puts it, “has made some very specific faith decisions.” To put that in plainer language, she is saving herself for marriage, the ostensible endpoint of “The Bachelor,” though certainly not the only destination on Pilot Pete’s flight plan.
“Well, obviously this is all happening really fast for dad,” says dad when he learns that Peter has told Madison that he is falling in love with her. “She’s so pure,” he adds, which is a totally normal thing for a dad to say about his adult daughter, probably. “I just don’t want you to break her heart.”
Unlike the more enthusiastic Hannah Ann, Madison seems to take her pater familias’ concerns to heart, coming away from the evening unsure how to proceed. “I really think I was hoping to be there. To tell Peter that I was in love with him,” she says. Alas, she is not sure “whether our spirits and our souls,” apparently two different forms of disembodied personhood, “are compatible.”
Victoria F., 26, a medical sales representative from Virginia Beach, Va.
If you hate-watch this show as much as we do, you know that there is a moment in every season of this garbage show that can break a person. That moment arrived on Peter and Victoria’s date. Pete is the worst. Victoria is the worst. This season is the worst! This show is the worst. We are all the worst, for watching and enjoying it.
Peter meets Victoria in her hometown of Virginia Beach, Va. Her black lab, Buxton, is with her, and when she jumps up on him and wraps his legs around him to make out — a move that we’ve deemed “the koala” — her dog runs away, into the ocean, without her even noticing. We are all Buxton, forever trying to escape the drama, running headlong into the tide.
Anyway, they go to one of those touristy old-timey photo booths, where you put on petticoats and top hats and try not to think too hard about how long it’s been since the photo place washed the costumes. They pose for a photo. Buxton is the only one who seems happy. They have ice cream and walk into a producer-arranged impromptu concert from Hunter Hayes, another country singer who, thankfully, Victoria has not dated. Somewhere, Chase Rice lets out a deep, wearied sigh.
But there’s another dangerous ex lurking. A woman in a jean jacket approaches Peter at the concert with information about Victoria. She used to date our protagonist. Though her face is blurred out, she already came forward to US Weekly. Her name is Merissa Pence. The magazine doesn’t manage to extract many more details about Victoria’s crimes from her than the vague accusation Pence lobs in person, telling him: “I don’t think you deserve what you’re on a date with right now.” Victoria has allegedly broken up relationships. In US Weekly, Pence says that Victoria threatened to slash her tires.
Years later, Peter will tell his therapist that country music, especially when performed live, is a major trigger for his anxiety.
Hours later, Peter arrives at Victoria’s family’s home with flowers, but she can sense that something is wrong.
When he tells her about Merissa, she gets hostile.
“Victoria, do you think I enjoy this right now? Do you think there’s any way I couldn’t address this?” She turns it back on him. “You’re supposed to meet MY family tonight and you decided that what Merissa told you is more important than meeting my family?” she said. “I’m so done with this right now, I can’t do this.” The last part was addressed to the producers — nothing better than when a contestant breaks the fourth wall! — and she walks away.
Peter leaves without meeting her family, a “Bachelor” first.
They meet again at his Virginia Beach hotel, when she comes to apologize.
“For some reason I can’t walk away from you,” she says.“But you kind of do,” he says. She ends it by telling him that she’s falling in love with him, and giving him the old-timey photo.
When everyone is together again in an airplane hangar for the rose ceremony, Peter gives his last rose to Victoria, despite the fact that they’ve spent approximately 35 percent of their short relationship fighting.
She is going to the fantasy suites, and we are going to keep hate-watching this show.